Let’s be honest, the miracle stories of Jesus are pretty amazing. To think that it’s possible for Jesus to touch a paralytic and he walks for the first time, or place mud on a blind man’s eyes, and after washing it off he can see beautiful sights, seems almost too good to be true. It’s no wonder that the miracles grab the headlines and keep our attention. We hope for these stories to be true because we are dazzled with the spectacular.
The miracle stories that begin chapter 7 of Luke are a prime example of this truth. Jesus healing the centurion’s servant and Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son are awe-inspiring stories. Proximity is no longer a deterrent to healing. Jesus heals the centurion’s son from a distance. There’s no touch or brushing up against his cloak. Jesus doesn’t even give the servant a ritualistic command to follow. Instead, the faith of the centurion, that Jesus can heal from a distance, inspires Jesus to perform the healing from a distance.
Death is also no longer a deterrent. Typically, people brought their sick relatives to Jesus to heal, but once their relatives died, they gave up hope. But if Jesus can raise the dead, then there is always hope. If Jesus can raise the dead, there’s nothing stopping him from doing almost anything. The possibilities are endless.
Our minds are therefore drawn to the awe and unending possibilities of a life in which Jesus can do anything. But while the miracles grab the headlines and hold our attention, focusing solely on the miracles may cause us to miss the heart of Jesus who sees and feels compassion for the outsiders.
Consider the miracles already mentioned from Luke 7. Yes, the centurion is a well-respected member of society; a man “who loves our nation and the one who built us our synagogue.” The centurion is so well liked, that the leaders of the town are pressing Jesus to heal the servant because the centurion is worthy. Even with this respect, the centurion is an outsider. He is a Gentile, and thus excluded from certain aspects of societal and religious life. Even if the man is a God-fearer, which he most certainly is, he is still an outsider because of his Gentile status.
Like the centurion, the widow is also an outsider. She is respected in the village in which she lives, as if evidence by the large crowd accompanying her to the burial, but as a widow with no sons alive, she will become destitute; part of the welfare state. She has limited rights, and there is no one left to care for her. She is mourning the loss of her son, but she is also mourning because of her new status in which she wonders how she will survive.
While we want to focus on the miracles that Jesus performs, the servant and the son are not the main characters in the story. They are barely even involved. Their only presence in the story is to provide a reason for Jesus to focus on the main characters; the centurion and the widow. It is the outsiders that draw Jesus’s attention. It is the outsiders who are commended for great faith. It is the outsiders whom Jesus has compassion on and loves. It is those whom society overlooks and undervalues that Jesus says, to these belong the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus is always giving value and worth to those whom society deems second-class. You still matter, Jesus says, even though you are an immigrant and a foreigner. You still matter, even though you are a widow and will most likely require government assistance to survive. You are not just a label or a statistic that can be discarded and ignored. You are a person made in the image of God, and while you may think you are unseen, Jesus says, I see you, I hear you, and I love you.
As we focus on the miracles because they are awe-inspiring, we may miss the heart of Jesus for the outsider who needs to be seen. Part of our call as disciples is to see the outsider, to see the ones society ignores and walks past. We need to give value to those whom society ignores, not judging their actions, but loving them as people.
To the outsiders, you are seen and loved. You still matter, even if your family history is tattered, even if your sexual identity is jumbled up, even if your living arrangements are complicated, even if your skin color is not the dominate in society. You are seen and valued by Jesus; and by his disciples.